FILM / DIRECTOR'S CUT: The difficulties of going native: Regis Wargnier, director of Indochine, on culture-clashes in Sir David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia

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The Independent Culture
There is a scene in Lawrence of Arabia in which Lawrence and the Arabs decide to cross the desert. One man gets separated from the rest and the other Arabs tell Lawrence, 'The man will die; it is written.' But he says: 'It's not written; nothing is written,' and saves him. Some days later they arrive in Aqaba. A fight breaks out between two Arab tribes and Lawrence says, 'If I kill one man in revenge will that settle the argument?' They agree, the guy is on the ground, face down. He raises his head and we see that it is the same man he rescued from the desert. Lawrence has to shoot him, and the Arab chief comes to him and says, 'You see, it was written.'

To the Arab soul the episode means that you shouldn't try to interfere with destiny and it is in this scene that you understand why the white man will fail in his wish to reconstruct Arab unity, because he is not, and will never be one of them. It's dramatically perfect, a kind of secondary story running through the main storyline.

It might be presumptuous to compare Lawrence of Arabia to my own film Indochine, but maybe there is a common point. In Indochine, the Catherine Deneuve character has never seen France; she was born in China. And she is trying to create roots there - in the literal sense, by planting a rubber plantation. But it's just an illusion - one day she will have to leave. I'm a great addict of Lawrence of Arabia; I've seen it six or seven times. People say that it's the kind of film you can't make today - too expensive and old- fashioned. So I was very happy to have the chance to work on an epic myself with Indochine.

Regis Wargnier's 'Indochine', now on release, won the Best Foreign Film Oscar last week.

(Photograph omitted)

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